Photo depicting an adult wearing a collared shirt and tie mentoring two Youth of Color wearing school uniforms and working on tablets.

OPINION | How Youth Mentorship Nurtures Academic, Professional, and Emotional Success

by Raul Melgarejo

Mentorship can uplift confidence and open limitless opportunities for success. As a teenager, I attended St. Andrew Nativity School in Portland where their Graduate Support Program matched me with a mentor to help me navigate the ins and outs of my higher education journey. 

Being part of the first generation in my family to benefit from higher education in the United States, I needed a mentor to provide support in areas that the adults in my life weren’t able to provide, which is why I’m so passionate about advocating for youth mentorship, hence my role as the director of Graduate Support at Seattle Nativity School. The following are three examples of how youth mentorship has impacted the lives of local youth and Seattle Nativity School students.

Cristian: Cristian is a Nativity graduate who is looking forward to attending Renton Technical College where he will study construction management. Our Seattle Nativity Graduate Support Program has guided Cristian through the admission and financial process for Renton Tech. Through Seattle Nativity, in collaboration with the Association of General Contractors Education Foundation, Cristian has connected with a mentor of similar background. His mentor has earned a degree in construction management and is now a working professional who is able to provide insight into the industry and offer networking opportunities for Cristian both throughout his college career and as he enters the field.

Bryan: Bryan is currently a sophomore at Western Washington University and a Seattle Nativity Class of 2016 graduate. He is a film student passionate about photography and extremely talented at his craft. Seattle Nativity connected Bryan with a world-renowned photographer who provides Bryan invaluable advice and shares stories of his passion for photography. Nativity has also given Bryan a platform to showcase his photography. He has taken and edited photographs for us over the past year, and his work has been published in our annual yearbook and Seattle magazine. He largely credits his mentor for encouraging him to keep practicing and achieving his goals.

Big City Mountaineers: Each summer, Seattle Nativity School partners with Big City Mountaineers to take up to 10 boys and 10 girls on a weeklong backpack trip through one of our state’s gorgeous backcountry trails. Many of our students have not had the opportunity to fully embrace Washington’s outdoor spaces due to financial barriers to entry, lack of exposure, or parents’ demanding work schedules. The program is free of cost to all families and outfits each student with proper clothing and gear to explore Washington’s wilderness. During expeditions, students create strong bonds with each other and the adult leaders as they work together to reach a summit. It’s a beautiful opportunity to connect our students with nature and inspire them to seek adventure. Often our graduates are invited to go as junior leaders and mentor our younger students.

I am passionate about mentorship and have made it my career because of how impactful it was on my life. I do not know where I would be without the support of my mentor during those crucial formative years! Having personal access to a supportive adult outside my existing network was a game changer when navigating my higher education and early career. 

As a first-generation college student, there were aspects of higher education and professional development that my single mother was not able to provide for me. The mentorship I received in middle school and high school was essential to building my confidence and self-worth. Additionally, mentorship was crucial to my social and emotional health. As I built trusting relationships with my mentors, I was more able to express my concerns and fears to them. This allowed me to experience both healing and growth.

As I work with my students, I think about my younger self and how the relationships I built with my mentors encouraged me to grow and flourish academically, professionally, and emotionally. Our students face adversities and challenges, but having someone walking beside them and rooting for their successes makes a great difference in their lives.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Raul Melgarejo is the director of Graduate Support at Seattle Nativity School, a nonprofit, tuition-free private middle school in South Seattle that provides youths from low-income backgrounds a comprehensive STEM education with support through high school, college, and into the first years of their careers. Raul works one-on-one with Seattle Nativity’s students and alumni, connecting them with resources and tools that produce lasting impact on their professional and academic careers. For more information on his work and Seattle Nativity, head to

📸 Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Seattle Nativity School.

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